Tag Archives: trauma

Green-Eyed Monster

green-eyed-monster

There. The Christmas tree is by the fire pit. The pine needles are vacuumed up. The presents are (almost) all put away. Done. It’s over. I survived. Mostly.

You hear how holidays are the worst time of year for many people. Obviously to those grieving or mourning, but also to those who suffer from depression or mental illness. It’s the time of year when we are supposed to surround ourselves with family and friends. We are supposed to count our blessings out loud. For those who are missing pieces of their Soul or whose loved ones are gone (yes, I know they’re not really *gone* but we can’t hold them or touch them or see them, so that counts as gone), this is a very difficult time of year. I’ve been isolating myself since Thanksgiving. I’m having trouble counting my blessings. I’m jealous of you. Yes, you. You, who are buying presents for all your children. You, who have to hurry up and clean your house for family. You, with your stupid Elf on a Shelf. You, who are complaining about “I wants” from your kids. You, who are running around like crazy to make it to all of your children’s performances, activities, sports, etc. You, who are posting incessantly all your family photos of smiling faces and holiday joy.

I’m jealous. It’s not just a little jealous. It’s the ugly jealous. It’s the kind of jealous that makes me want to reach through the computer and punch you in the face. It’s the jealous that makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs and claw your eyes out. I feel rage. I feel violent, and for those who know me personally, you know I’m the least aggressive person. It’s hard to admit this. Nobody wants to hear it. We’re supposed to be filled with love for our fellow man this time of year. I’m filled with anger, aggression, violence, agony, sorrow. I hate you right now. Even though I don’t really hate You, I hate everything about your life. I hate your baking wcrazy womanith your children. I hate your Christmas carols. I hate your picking out a tree as a family. I hate your cookie swaps. What’s so special about you that you get to keep all your children while one of mine lays in the cold, frozen ground? Why do YOU get to spoil your son rotten, when he has been bullying my Li’l Man? How dare you throw in my face the happiness in your home! That’s how Facebook has felt to me this season. My filters, never really high-functioning, are on the fritz. So I’ve stayed offline. I haven’t responded to texts or emails. I haven’t answered the phone. It’s safer for all of us that way.

You wouldn’t know any of this by looking at me. I’m becoming so good at hiding my feelings. I’ve had loads of company at my house, and I’ve been “fine.” I’m smiling and joking with you. I’m open and welcoming to you and your family. I actually do appreciate the house filled with people because it’s just too lonely when there are only 3 of us. Inside, however, all this ugliness swirls around, eating at the very core of who I am. I have this darkness inside of me that left unchecked will blacken my heart. I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t know how to stop, though. I’m praying that these emotions will prove transient as emotions usually do. I hope. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I’m working on a personal project I’ve dubbed “Extracting Head from Ass.” I have to find a way to fill my days again. I feel the whispers telling me to start moving. I don’t know in which direction to go. I’m starting small. I need to get my house in order. It’s been in limbo Since. My dining room has become a Shrine to Nolan’s passing. I still have tupperware and dishes left behind from his Service. (If any of it is yours, and you want it, come get it!!) I have all the sympathy cards we received. I have all the funeral cards. I have everything “Nolan” on that table.

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So it’s time to clean it off. It’s time to package it in boxes tied with beautiful ribbons. It’s time to put his passing away. I’ll never put him away, but all this memorabilia is holding me encased in stone, and I have to figure out how to move. Did I say I was starting small? Untrue. The first step is the longest stride.

Courting Death

silentI woke up at 1:15am with the words of a poem I wrote back in 1990 on my mind. I haven’t thought of that series of poetry in so many years. Grief is strange. It brings up such seemingly random thoughts. Immediately, my mind started writing. I really do need to get myself out of bed when that happens and just let the words pour forth. Maybe then I’d get back to sleep. Anyway, it seemed such a random thing to bubble to the surface. I’ll share those words with you now. Please keep in mind that I was a mere 16 years old.

Isolated and alone
In a crowd of friends
My smile is forced
I don’t want to pretend.
There’s nowhere to turn
No one seems to care
Just turn around
And you’ll see me there.
All by myself
Always alone
As my heart of warmth
Turns slowly to stone.

I’ve read through that series of poems for the first time in many years. The theme is so much the same of what I am feeling now; the isolation and loneliness. As I reflect back, this is something I’ve battled my whole life. I grew up in a very abusive and dysfunctional home. I learned quickly to keep my silence, to not ask for help, to hide my feelings. I tried to commit suicide for the first time when I was 10. Luckily enough, I wasn’t too smart about it. The rod I tried to hang myself from fell down. I never told anyone. I planned about a thousand other ways to do it, but I never had the guts to go through with it.

When I was in 6th grade, a wonderful teacher (and by wonderful I mean a horribly crotchety woman who should never have been allowed around children) told me that I was “not deserving to be a Group 1 student.” This was back in the days when kids were grouped only by skill level. To me, that confirmed everything that I had been told every day of my entire life. “You’re stupid.” “You’re ugly.” “You’re worthless.” “I hate you.” “You ruined my life.” “I wish you were never born.” Yada yada yada. What did I do that caused her to deem me Undeserving? I refused to stand up in front of the class and give an oral report for a science project. I did the project. I did the research and the work and wrote the paper. I simply would not, could not, stand in front of a room full of people and talk. I had spent 11 years silencing my voice. I was told every time I spoke that I was stupid, ignorant, an idiot, etc. How could I possibly stand up in front of the class and show everyone just how dumb I am? I took the F, and I stopped caring about school.

By the time I became a teenager, I had given up on suicidal thoughts. I wasn’t even brave enough to do that. I didn’t, however, give up on courting Death. I courted Death like a hungry beast starving. I teased it. I begged it. I tempted it. I asked for it. At 14 I met another wonderful teacher (and by wonderful I mean a horribly crotchety man who should never have been allowed around children) who kicked me out of class for being unable to answer a question on history. This was the very day I returned to school after almost a 2-month absence with Mono, being in and out of the hospital repeatedly. Nice guy. He kicked me out of the classroom and sent me to the library to do a report on whatever the foolish question was. I wrote his report. Triple spaced, one very long run-on sentence, ending with “A$$hole.” I gave up entirely on school that very day. Again, he confirmed what I had been told millions of times.

I chased Death with a passion after that. There really wasn’t anyone there to help me. Nobody to notice. Nobody to reach out. I honestly welcomed Death should He finally answer my call. I did whatever I wanted to. To outsiders, I looked like just another stereotypical teen going down the wrong path. To my friends, I was the life of the party. I was the girl that would do anything without apology or regret. In truth, I was a broken child. In truth, I just wanted to die.

I’m not sure why all of this came up at 1:15 in the morning. Something about the synchronicity of the feelings I have today maybe. I’m no stranger to isolation and loneliness. They are like long lost companions come home again. Or more like long lost relatives I don’t really want to visit coming again. I know what they look like. I know how they feel. I don’t really want their company. I find my mind falling back into patterns of days gone by.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about suicide Since. I’ve thought it through carefully. I still couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do that to my children. That’s not say I wouldn’t welcome Death with open arms should He finally decide to claim me. I would. I would go willingly, happily, completely without hesitation. I probably shouldn’t say that out loud, but this is me. Unfiltered. This is real. I did warn you this was an ugly journey.

I’m both a broken child and a broken woman. It’s my belief that these pervasive themes that encompass you throughout your life are purposely part of your path. It’s something I have to learn to overcome. There was a time I thought I had. Now I know I learned to think, act, and feel differently, but I never actually overcame any of it. I’ve made my peace with the actions I suffered in the past. I’ve given forgiveness to those who hurt me – for me, not for them. I found a strength through those trials that many people never need. I have to somehow find that strength again. I used to say that I’d been through the worst Life could throw at me and came out tougher because of it. Be careful what you say. Life replied with “Oh yeah? How about THIS?”

So, I’m working on it. Every day. Every moment. I’m striving to find that inner strength to carry me through once again. I’m not going to silence my voice even with words nobody wants to hear. Somebody out there feels the same, and maybe my words will open their floodgates too. I know this blog is followed by some teenagers who may be able to relate to my childhood. I thought about this before writing. Should I share this intimately? I decided (obviously) that yes, I should. I’m not the first to court Death as a child. Neither would I be the last. If you are reading this and are having any of the same feelings I did, please reach out. To me, to a truly wonderful teacher (not a horribly crotchety person who should never be around children), to a trusted adult, to ANYONE. Scream it from the rooftops! Never silence your pain.

Cheese Platter from Hell

cheese platterI’ve been avoiding this – the revisiting of the first dreadful Thanksgiving Since. I anticipated it would be bad. Nothing prepared me for how gut-wrenchingly awful it would actually be. Maybe if I let the words out, I can also let them go. Here goes.

Every year Nolan would go to my sister’s house a couple days early to help her cook. That was a passion and a talent they both shared. It was wonderful to see her connect with my son in that way. Not having any children of her own, I think it gave her a brief glimpse of how amazing it is to see a child blossom under your wing. This year our oldest went to help her Aunt in Nolan’s place. They had fun, and that makes me feel good. Plus this happened. It made me laugh. (Remember to open in new tab!)

We spent the week in MA. DH was working, and I got to visit with some friends. That was good. I was good. I felt stronger. It’s always a little easier on me being away from home. Home hurts too much.

As much as I dreaded The Day, time is relentless and it dawned before me much against my wishes. I awoke in tears.  Li’l N was right there, as always, holding me. He doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t try to tell me it’s ok or make false promises that it will be ok. He simply holds me and lets me cry for as long as I need to. I’m in awe at his ability to instinctively know how to comfort at such a young age. I wonder if I let him comfort me too much sometimes. Then I think, perhaps his comfort and my acceptance is a gift to both of us. He is powerless to change the situation, and as a child I imagine he feels that magnified. Knowing that his care does help, I think maybe that gives him a little bit of empowerment too. Or I could be completely wrong and I’m letting him take on more than I should. I have no idea. But I digress.

The day dawns and eventually I get myself out of bed, dressed, and somewhat composed. We went to watch my nephew’s last football game as a Senior. I know I sat through the game. I must’ve watched it. I didn’t see any of it. My mind, my heart, my Soul was elsewhere. I both wanted the game to end so I could curl into myself privately and I wanted it to last forever because I knew what came next. Again, time is relentless.

I struggled the whole ride to my Sister’s house. I prayed and prayed and prayed for help to stay strong, to face this day with grace, to find some moment of joy amidst the sorrow. Some prayers just aren’t answered. Maybe they are always answered and sometimes the answer is “No.”

I knew I couldn’t let anyone touch me. I was barely hanging on by a fraying thread, quickly unraveling. If anyone touched me, I would lose all semblance of control. I was open and simply said “I’m not hugging today.” My family, at least 99% of them, are wonderful and accepting and supportive. My proclamation was met with a simple, “Ok.” Phew. I thought maybe I could do this. I was wrong.

I walked into the kitchen where we typically gather and was immediately brought to my knees by a cheese platter. A g*d-damned friggin cheese platter. You simply cannot account for what will devastate you. I have nothing against cheese. I like cheese. Nolan, however, LOVED cheese. He used to say “Cheese is my weakness.” He would hover over that platter and inhale its contents with smiles that lit him from within. Ahhh the power of cheese. I looked at that seemingly innocuous platter of dairy and my world spun out of control. It looked like I was in a kaleidoscope. The room tilted on its axis. I felt dizzy and nauseous. The floor opened up beneath me and the black abyss of Grief pulled me under with no warning. It was instantaneous. I was lost before I was even able to register what happened. I tried to hide it. I’m not sure what I said or if I said anything out loud, but I blinked and found myself sitting on a corner of the couch in the living room, alone. I think I did black out for a minute. I didn’t faint, but my mind clicked out. Kind of like a drunken blackout without the benefit of the drunken part. There was a glass of wine next to me, and I still have no recollection of how it got there.

I stayed in that spot, on that couch for a couple hours. I think I might have talked to people, but I’m not sure. I remember being gifted with a beautiful journal by my Sister’s dear friend. It’s leather-bound and embossed with the Tree of Life. Perfect for me, and so touching that it brought my consciousness into my body briefly. I was in a fog, and I don’t remember all of that hideous day. I have glimpses. I have sound clips. Bursts of laughter coming from around that damned cheese platter. It made me angry. Then I felt guilty for feeling angry. Then I felt sad for feeling guilty. At least I kept my mouth shut. I think. I remember sitting there and willing myself out of my body. I felt trapped, caged. I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t get away. I remember my oldest daughter sitting next to me at one point, but I don’t remember if we spoke. I was on auto-pilot and either I was so good that nobody noticed or my family was really good about not mentioning it. Either way or maybe both. I don’t know.

When it was time to gather at the table, I froze. I tried waiting for everyone else to situate themselves first. I had every intention of standing up and walking over. I knew I couldn’t eat, but I thought I would sit there at least. My feet were encased in lead. My legs became numb. My heart raced.  My hands tingled. My head spun wildly. There was no way I could get myself to that table. One minute I was on the couch and then next I was locked in the bathroom upstairs. I don’t remember what happened in betweeen. It’s blank. I sat at my Sister’s vanity and sobbed. I was wracked with painful sobs that tore from the very depths of my Soul. I heard laughter from downstairs. I heard DH’s laughter and it tore me to shreds. He hadn’t offered one bit of comfort all day and it ripped me apart. I knew he was doing what he had to do, even at the time. But still. I felt so terribly isolated and alone.

I don’t know how long I sat there. Eventually my oldest daughter and youngest son came to my rescue. I don’t know if they said anything, although they must have. I felt both of their hands on me and it was a lifeboat tossed into the churning sea of despair. I don’t know if I asked Li’l N to get my pills or if he thought of it on his own. I wish I had thought to take a pill much earlier in the day. I slipped one of those little tablets under my tongue and in a short while I was able to gain a little more control of myself. I knew I had to make my way to the table just because. Somehow I did. I had literally a bite of turkey and a bite of stuffing. I tasted none of it. I think I sat there for minutes before returning to my spot on the couch. Those pills knock me out, and I was so grateful for the darkness that crept over me. I was freezing even though the room was hot. I couldn’t stop shivering. I didn’t fight the pull of sleep. I had been checked out all day even with my eyes open. It felt good to let them close and the heck with anyone around me.

When I awoke some time later, (hours?) I felt better. Not much but a little. I felt hungry, actually. It occurred to me I hadn’t eaten all day. I fixed myself a small plate of leftovers and picked at it. It didn’t taste right to me. I’m sure it was the usual bit of deliciousness, but Grief robs you of your tastebuds. It twists your sense of smell. It dulls all colors in the world. I had to force it down. I think I was able to hold a conversation by this point, but I’m not sure who it was with or what it was about. My sister? Probably, but I don’t honestly remember.

When I next looked at the clock, it was after midnight. I don’t know where the hours went. It really was an odd experience. I’ve never been so in and out of consciousness before. I have clearer memories of the hospital than I do of that Dreadful Day. I must have been in shock or something. I simply could not handle it.

It was after 1am before I laid my body down. I took another pill just in case, which I haven’t done in more than a month. Li’l N snuggled in my arms. I remembered laying in the hospital bed with Nolan, knowing that the time left with him in my arms was dwindling. My Mother swept the hair out of my face and whispered close to my ear “Stay in the moment. Don’t think about what comes next. Right now, in this moment, you have Nolan in your arms.” I held onto that with Li’l N. I stopped allowing myself to think of what was missing. In that moment, deep in the stillness of the night, I had my youngest son, my baby, held safely in my arms. I felt the weight of him on my body. I smelled the soft scent of his cologne and shampoo. I heard the quiet sighs of his peaceful slumber, and I surrendered. I let the day end knowing the next would come and I would wage the battle once again.

Shackles

joan-of-arc-aFor those that haven’t read my post “Naked in Front of the Crowd,” go read it! No, it’s fine. Here are the Cliff Notes. A couple of months ago, I was diagnosed  with a small brain aneurysm.  I’ve had mixed feelings about this from the beginning.  At first, I felt so guilty that Nolan most likely got this from me. Somebody pissed in my gene pool and he paid the ultimate price. It’s obviously ridiculous to feel guilty about that. I carry no more responsibility for his developing an aneurysm than I have responsibility for his getting my ears or my mouth. Genetics are bizarre. So, I got over that. Mostly.

Second stage of coping: I was relieved.  How weird is that? To me, this meant that I wouldn’t have to live another 40+ years without Nolan. There was a back door out of this life! There was a quick escape! It was out of my hands and maybe part of the plan! I was ok with that. I know, I know. My other kids need me and yadda yadda yadda. Hey, Grief is messy, ugly, and doesn’t much care about anyone else. It just is.

Every time I’ve had a migraine since this diagnosis, I did get a little nervous. I immediately began formulating a plan of what to do with Li’l N just in case. I kept the phone near me, just in case. Not the actions of someone who was waiting to die. That showed me that I really didn’t want to leave this world just yet as much as I do want to leave this world right now. Does that makes sense? Don’t feel bad. It doesn’t make sense to me either. Grief is full of strange dichotomies. {shrug}

I met with briefly with Li’l N’s neurosurgeon who was kind enough to take a quick look at my scans. He agreed with the first diagnosis. Considering he’s a pediatric guy, it was suggested I see another neurologist who works with adults. That brings us up to today.

I met with a neurosurgeon who is at the very top of his field. What did he have to say? He was “underwhelmed” with my scans. Wait, what? In this case, he assured me, that is a good thing. While he can see where the original diagnosis came from, he is pretty confident that it’s nothing big enough to require treatment or anything more than repeat scans as the years go by. Great news! Everyone is so happy and relieved. Awesome! Woo Hoo! Right?

Not me. I felt like I had 100lb weights strapped to my feet. I felt like I had a 1,000lb weight sitting on my chest. Relief isn’t the word for what I felt.  I felt stuck. Trapped. Hopeless. Shackled to this life that I no longer want. That was my back door. Now it’s locked. That was my “easy out.” That was my escape. Now what?

It’s taboo to say things like that. We’re not supposed to want to die. When you lose a child, you’re supposed to hold on for your other kids. It’s what everyone tells you. Somehow it’s just expected that you would want to. Let me tell you, that’s not the case. It’s not about how much you love your other children. Lord knows, I love them more than anything else in this world! I’m only breathing today because of them. It’s not about that. It’s not even about love. It’s about loss. Grief is selfish. It blankets everything else completely. Grief doesn’t care that the other kids are hurting too. It can see that, but it can’t touch it. Grief doesn’t care that the other parent is broken too. Grief has eyes and a mind for only one person. The child that isn’t here. Grief cries out for them with a screeching holler that leaves no room for the sound of other children crying. It’s horrible to the other children who will forever be The Other Children.

You may think this makes me a bad mother. Maybe it does. I don’t know. I can’t make any apologies for these feelings. I didn’t ask for them. They came when Nolan left. Experience has shown me that feelings are transient. Hopefully these feelings will be as well. I think they will pass in time because of the deep love I have for The Other Children. In the meantime, I go through the motions. I try to check in with them. I hug them. I tell them I love them and how proud I am of them. I tell them I’m here if they need me. The harsh reality is that I’m not here as I should be or want to be. I’m half out of this world. I’m straddling the abyss. The back door is locked. I have no easy out. I’m stuck. Shackled. Here. While Nolan is There.

 

4 Months

hourglassIt’s been 4 months Since. 122 days, 17 hours, and approximately 37 minutes as of this writing. Since.

Each day moves me a little further away from that moment. I’m trying hard to not let my mind wander back to that time as often. It’s a bitter, uphill battle. I’ve learned to be vigilant with my thoughts. I have a note taped over the kitchen sink that reads “Control your thoughts and keep moving.” I need that reminder. If I don’t constantly stay in control of my thoughts, I’m back there at that moment reliving the next 4 days of torture. Sometimes I’m not strong enough to be vigilant. I’m blindfolded balancing on a tight rope covered in oil over a pool of razors in a bath of salt water. I slip quite often.

Everything has changed. My life is a shadow of the richness it once was. I am but a shell of the person I once was. My playful, free spirit is weighted down. My wings are broken. My spark is drenched. My face has creases that weren’t there Before. I’ve aged at least 5 years Since. There are lines around and bags under my eyes. My skin is dry and thin. It feels like my outsides are beginning to mirror my insides turning me into a dry husk of a human. I barely eat yet keep getting heavier. My body is trying desperately to wrap me in layers to protect my fragile Self. The weight simply pulls me down deeper under the water.

I don’t recognize the woman in the mirror. Her smile is forced and it never reaches her eyes. The sparkle is gone. This woman before me doesn’t laugh as easily or stand as tall. Well, as tall as her slight 5’3″ frame once did. This woman can’t really be me.

This woman before me has no tolerance for petty drama or bullsh*t. She is empty inside but with a well of compassion that knows no bounds. Her thinking is at once clear and confused. She can’t understand why people get so upset about minor things. A car breakdown, a grumpy child, a fight with a spouse. She sees beyond the annoyances to what really matters. She has no filter. She will share her perspective on your struggles with a simple, blunt statement, not meaning to sound crass but simply unable to mince words. She would trade your struggles for hers in a heartbeat.

The people surrounding this woman have changed. She has been abandoned by those she thought to count on in her weakest moments. She has been hurt deeply by those who profess to love her. Yet, she is surrounded by people who are True, Honest, Authentic, Pure. Brave. It takes a brave person to walk in her orbit. It’s a messy, ugly space filled with obstacles and fragmented remains of a shattered life that can destroy you.

This woman before me spends a lot of time on her knees now, in sorrow and in prayer. She knows she is too weak to stand alone. She is somehow strong enough to allow support.

Time is different now. It seems like a second and a lifetime. I still wait for Nolan to come say goodnight at the end of the day. Every night I wait. I still expect to see him getting ready for school in the morning. Every morning. I find myself thinking about where he should be in that moment. Every moment. It’s not true that time heals all wounds. Time passes, that’s all. It passes too quickly and too slowly. I can’t wait to get to the end so we can be together again. I want time to stand still so I can hold Li’l N just the way he is. Nothing makes sense. I will wait for Nolan for every second of every minute of every hour of every day for the rest of my life. I will miss him. I will ache for him. I will Love him.

It’s been 4 months. 122 days, 17 hours, and approximately 37 minutes as of this writing. And yet, all that has passed is the blink of an eye.

 

Angels on the Field

10507019_10152393416675780_8248734576577210507_oDH and I were lucky enough to have dinner before the Big Game with Taylor Darveau’s parents. (See my last post for the backstory.) I will admit I was nervous to meet them. In fact, I said to a friend of mine that I didn’t know what to say to them. Her response as she had a fit of giggles –  “I’m not laughing with you. I’m laughing AT you.”  I know, it felt silly, hypocritical even. We are in the same horrific club. We both lost a child. How many people wouldn’t talk to me because they didn’t know what to say? I’m not immune to the irony.

As it turns out, I had zero reason to be nervous. They are such warm, caring, open, and forgiving people. They traveled a much harsher road than we have and yet conduct themselves with a grace and a determination that speaks volumes for the depth of their love for Taylor. I feel honored and blessed to count them among our Friends. The parallels in our lives and in our childrens’ lives is uncanny. I firmly believe that Nolan and Taylor have their hands in all of this. As much as both families would give anything to have them back, it’s comforting to know that they are together and working hard to surround all of us with their loving guidance.

How did the Big Game go? The Huskies did it, and not alone either. I have no doubt that Nolan was there, and this photo simply proves it.

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The emotions that poured forth upon the win surprised me. It hit me hard and the tears just flowed. Luckily I was surrounded by loving support and they helped me stand. I wasn’t the only one. This has been such an emotional season for all of us. I went onto the field to hug some of Nolan’s best friends on the team and could have held onto them for hours. We cried together in joy and in sorrow. Thinking about it now still brings tears to my eyes. I know Nolan is so very proud.

Nolan has been with his Brothers every step of the way this season. We move on to the State Championship game next Saturday in Portland. Including exhibition games and scrimmages, next Saturday’s will be the Huskies’ 13th game. Do you think that’s a coincidence? Neither do I.

You can catch the recap here (remember to open in new tab!):

http://wabi.tv/2014/11/15/mci-battles-back-best-bucksport-win-class-d-eastern-maine-crown/

Learn more about Taylor Darveau and the T.A.Y.L.O.R. Foundation at:

http://www.taylorfoundation.com/

The Big Game is more than a Game

 

1507760_896734047028178_7975437336775227726_nFootball has always been big here in this little town of Pittsfield, and this season it’s become even bigger. Our Huskies are about to face their Championship Game tomorrow night with an undefeated record behind them. To the Team, to the Community, to all of Us, it’s about more than the game.

Nolan decided to switch from Soccer to Football at the end of his 8th grade year. He had begun weight training with the Huskies and was drawn in by their camaraderie. He knew these boys were more than teammates, more than friends. They were brothers. They were so welcoming and inviting to Nolan. He wasn’t expecting that. He was anticipating the usual antics and hassling towards Freshmen. Those boys were nothing like that. They connected with Nolan and he fit right in from the beginning.

It broke something in all of us when Nolan died before he ever got to play on the field in an actual game. His death also created something. Nolan’s passing tightened the bonds of the Huskies bringing rise to their passion, perseverance, and endurance. Nolan’s passing brought them a mission. Their mission was to play this season for their fallen brother. Their mission was to play harder and fiercer for Nolan and to make Nolan proud. Let me tell you, they have done that and more.

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This story has captured everyone’s attention and touched our Community. Below I’ve put 2 links for a news story covering Nolan and the Huskies this season. Please take a few minutes to watch. It’s very touching.

**open link in new tab so you don’t lose me!**

http://wabi.tv/2014/11/03/nolan-berthelette-still-part-mci-football-program/

http://wabi.tv/2014/11/04/berthelette-continues-inspire-mci-football-part-2/

Are you still with me? The story gets better.  Meet our opponents in this Championship Game. The Bucksport Bucks, and they are no strangers to loss. They lost someone very special to them as well, Taylor Darveau. Taylor was a cheerleader for Bucksport and was killed last year in a Distracted Driving accident. Please take another minute to read more about this amazing connection.

http://pressbox.bangordailynews.com/2014/11/09/home/bucksport-mci-cope-with-tragedy-while-reaching-ltc-final/#.VF_JybbH-FI.facebook

Now we’re down to it. Two teams playing for their fallen mates. You couldn’t make this up. Well, maybe Hollywood could, but you and I couldn’t. It’s an incredible showdown in the making. These kids on both teams are an example of perseverance. They are an example of kinship. They are an example to all of us that there is more than a Game at hand. It doesn’t really matter who wins. Of course we’d love to see the Huskies go all the way. There’s a bigger picture here. All of these kids have lost some of their innocence. They know all too well that bad things happen to good kids. They’ve shown us how to stay strong and keep going. They’ve shown us how to hold each other up when we fall. I usually roll my eyes at the saying, but I’m using it here with all sincerity. No matter who gets the trophies at the end of the night, all these kids have won so much more than a Game.

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

carouselI learned today that Nolan’s twitches were, in fact, a symptom of his aneurysm. He had this blinking twitch and this weird moving-his-hairline twitch. That one was pretty strange to see. He could literally move just his hair on his scalp. I’ve never seen anyone be able to do that before. I’d mentioned these behaviors to his Doctor on a number of occasions and was told they were just stress or anxiety responses. Like an idiot, I bought it. Ok, I’ll be kinder to myself. Not an idiot, like an ignorant fool. Try again? Like a passive parent. I can’t help feeling that as his Mother, I should have pursued the issue. I should have known.

Here it comes again. Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda. This is a bad road to go down, but right now it’s the only one I see. I should have seen something more was at play. I should have simply asked for a scan to be sure. I could have been more of an advocate for Nolan’s health. I should have known this deadly condition was lurking. I should have felt the danger! I could have saved him. We could have found out about this in time to maybe do something. I could have saved him if only I’d known. WHY didn’t I know? I’ve given that boy Reiki so many times. How did I not feel something amiss?

Where were my instincts? Where was my intuition? I can tell my kids are lying from the way they hold their bodies. I can tell they’re planning something sketchy by the tone of their voice. I can tell they’re not feeling well by a look in their eyes. How did I miss this? How could Nolan have been so close to death for so long and I didn’t see it? I noticed his twitches increasing in the months leading up to That Night. Why didn’t I pursue it? I believed it was simply stress and/or anxiety. It made sense. Nothing that bad could ever happen to one of my kids.

This is a slippery slope. It’s a carousel that doesn’t stop. People will tell you not to blame yourself, there’s nothing you could have done. People will say it was his Fate or he had something bigger to do. Maybe that’s true. It still spins me around and around and around. If I had just asked for a scan, Nolan might still be here today. He might be playing football this weekend. He might be downstairs right now playing drums. He might be driving me crazy with all of his plans. He might be standing right behind me asking my advice. He might have his hand on my shoulder right now. He might be saying “I love you, Mom” one more time.

I can’t trust myself anymore. I used to consider myself a good Mother. I took pride in being a Steward of these children. I thought I was so tuned in to them on all levels. How did this one get by  me? How could something so major slip my attention? What am I missing now? What if another of my children has something terribly wrong that I don’t see? I have lost faith in my instincts as a Mother, as a Sister, as a Friend, as a Wife. If I missed this, what else am I blind to?

I failed my son. I failed Nolan when he needed me most, and it cost him his life. How do I pick up and keep parenting knowing that? I’m not worthy of these children.

Hurtful Hurts and Truthful Truths

grief2Someone very close to me shut off their filters and let their feelings fly. Alcohol short-circuited those filters, but I think the emotions they shared, or more accurately hurled like burning daggers through my heart, were sincere. According to this person who I do love and respect, I am selfish and self-absorbed. I am weak because I take “F’ing DRUGS” to make it through the day. I am lazy and lay on the couch doing nothing all day. I am failing my youngest son and am not taking care of him. I am “ruining everything and destroying what is left of” my family. I hardly to go the cemetery, and the worst of it – I wasn’t there for Nolan when he left this world.

Want to let that sink in for a minute? Imagine trying desperately to get your head above water and managing the occasional gasp of breath, and then someone comes along who you thought would help you swim but they toss you a cement block instead and it drags you down into the depths of the darkness where you lose all sight of what’s up and down, and you lose all will to keep fighting for air. Welcome to my Now.

Before you condemn this person, consider their point of view. We all say things when we’re drinking that we wouldn’t and shouldn’t have said otherwise. I’m not sure it makes the statements untrue, just that they wouldn’t normally say them out loud. We are all entitled to our opinions and feelings. Just because they hurt, well, that just is. So without getting angry, what do you do? What do I do with all of that?

I’m doing everything I can think of to make it through each day yet each day is getting harder to make it through. I’m reading books about how to deal with Grief, meditating, reaching out to a support group, writing about my feelings, letting others hold me up when I’m too weak to stand. It’s supposed to get better, right? I find myself surrounded by people I wasn’t close to Before and yet I can’t imagine making it through this without them. I’m letting people in and telling Truthful Truths, as someone very dear to me calls the hard things to admit. I’m choosing to only spend time with people who help bring me to the Light, and I’m being authentic. What else can I do? Why is it getting harder?

Here’s my Truthful Truth for today. I am drowning, and I have no desire left to swim. Perhaps Dagger-Person is right and my family would be better off without me. No, I’m not suicidal, but every time I get a migraine, I’m almost hopeful the Aneurysm will rupture so the decision is taken out of my hands. I’m not supposed to talk like that. It makes people nervous. I would never do anything to force the issue, but there it is. I spend more hours a day crying and reliving that horrible experience over and over and over than I spend doing anything else collectively. I’m exhausted with fighting to make it through. There is no respite. There is no peace when Death steals your child and your Soul.

Dinnertime

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Last night we sat down to family dinner. I cooked two nights in a row. You probably don’t know what a big deal that is. I’m a good cook. Truly. I won’t give you salmonella, listeria, trichinosis, e. coli, or any other yucky food-type-poisoning. I have some dishes I make that DH says is better than Olive Garden even. (Hey, we set a mediocre bar here.) The problem is that I don’t like to cook very often. It’s not even that I don’t like to cook. It’s really that dinner comes at the most inconvenient time of day. We undoubtedly have some kid at some practice from 5:30 – 7 most nights. There’s homework and cranky time and getting ready for bed time. Who can combat all of that and still pull their family to the table together over something actually cooked and not defrosted? As Karma would have it, DH and Nolan always equate love with food. I couldn’t care less whether I even eat, and that’s not due to Grief. I’ve always been that way. I like food. I just don’t equate it with love.

Family dinner was always super important to Nolan. The most random and important topics were covered during family dinners. We talked about politics and world events and we talked about manscaping and horrors of waxing. We had fun. We argued and when things got heated, I’ve been known to throw lettuce at someone which would spark a food fight that was way more fun to have than to clean up. We had fun, even when stuff like this happened (yes, that’s a green bean in his nose):

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We had dinner as a family every night right up until the middle-school and teen years tore everyone in different directions. I managed to cook double on nights that I found time so that we always had leftovers for the next night. The worst offender of interrupting family dinner is baseball season. Really. Our player had to be down at the field by 4:00 for a 5:30 game, which didn’t end until around 7:30, at which time they had to clean up and have the Coach’s talk and yadda yadda yadda, and it’s 8pm before we even get home. I gave myself a pass, and Nolan was kind enough to give me a pass as well, on family dinner during baseball season. Hey, we were all at the field together anyway, right? Popcorn counts.

Nolan loves (loved, damn I hate past-tense verbs) eating as a family. He hated “make a plate” nights and would always ask me to at least sit with him while he ate. Even more, he hated (damn past-tense verb, I hate you!) “Whatever” nights. That’s when there was no food prepared and you had to find “Whatever” to eat. Sandwich? Cereal? Whatever.

I haven’t cooked more than a handful of meals for DH and Li’l N “Since.” I’m trying. I know Nolan would be so mad at the lack of thought given to dinners in this house “Since.” I want to honor him and still be as close to the old Me as “Before.” It’s not easy. Wednesday night, I made a lovely dinner and waited 30 minutes for DH and Li’l N to get to the table and ended up starting dinner alone.  Believe it or not, it was easier on me before they came to the table. Anyway, last night we all made it there at the same time and Li’l N decided he wasn’t eating what I made and was going to cook his own dinner. Whatever. It took him a little longer and I had to help a bit, but he finally made it to the table. I tried to eat but only tasted tears. We were 3 when we should still be 4. I remembered back to our younger days when we were 7 around the table. It made me profoundly sad. Li’l N now sits in Nolan’s seat, which he did “Before” on nights Nolan wasn’t home. That’s ok, but still. Nolan should be sitting there.

Li’l N was in a really crabby mood. I’ve noticed his fuse getting shorter lately, and I’m concerned he’s got some anger towards the world that might be coming on. DH did his darndest to pull Li’l N out and start a conversation. N was having none of it. I just happened to ask about a project he’s working on and had mentioned in passing, and the words came tumbling out. I hit on something he cared about. It was a great diffuser and a great conversation, and it made me think. We really haven’t been present like he deserves. We listen and hear “blah blah blah,” and N knows it. So I took a turn last night.

After dinner when he fake punched me, I didn’t scold him has I’m afraid I’ve done all too often “Since.” I just fake-punched him back. Then I fake-karate chopped him. Then I for-real picked him up, flipped him onto the couch and sat on him. Do you know who would do that? The old Me. The Me from “Before.” We went on to have the best fake-ninja fight that I totally fake-won. N laughed. Really laughed. Uninhibited, full-bodied laughs came. You know what else? So did I. For that little span of time, I was present with Li’l N, and he was present with me. We weren’t “Before” or “Since” but simply “Now.” It changed the energy of our house. It became a Home for just that little span of time. Yet, that was something big.

I can’t do it all the time. Not yet. I don’t know if the old Me will come back as “Before.” I doubt it because that old Me never knew this pain and didn’t have to carry this emptiness. Perhaps, in time, a new Me will have some of the same characteristics and tendencies as “Before.” For now, for just right “Now,” I strive to be in the moment with N. Giving him his Mom back is the best thing I can do to honor Nolan. That, and maybe cook more.